why is driving so exhausting?



I can understand that you dont have to make physical effort to feel tired, because I work as a computer programmer and I feel tired after making mental effort, but this effort seems way bigger than the one required to drive, yet, after 4,5 hours of driving I feel way more exhausted than after 8,10 hours of coding.

In: Biology

Well when you‘re driving, you have to literally try not to die or cause any accidents. Whereas in coding you literally just sit and write some code without any real life danger. You‘re basically remembering every rule and law you learned to try and navigate the roads. In coding you can clear your mistakes and start over.

A lot of it is just not moving much for a long time, even though you are sitting longer for your job you have more room to move your legs a bit and can get up regularly, in a car for 4 hours your legs are barely moving and you can’t get up, also the constant concentration is part of it too, at work you likely take small breaks, talk to people, get water but in a car you can’t just stop concentrating for 5 min because you will likely crash

It’s down to micro vibrations, vibrations make people tired and cars vibrate quite allot. I’m sure there is a study on it https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180705110030.htm. That one and I’m sure there are others.

While driving you’re constantly analyzing, making decisions, and doing micro-corrections. Scanning the road for potential hazards and other drivers, looking for curves that require you to adjust speed or potholes and debris that you need to avoid, making a million tiny corrections on the steering wheel to stay in your lane, etc.

If you have been driving for a couple years (or even months) then your body does a lot of this subconsciously. So while it seems like you’re not doing much, your body is constantly working to avoid danger

Driving a car is one of the most mechanicaly involved things an average human does in the course of a day. I don’t mean mechanical as in the machine that is the car, I mean the different mechanics your brain is going through to pilot a car safely. You are constantly visually and sonically alert for other drivers, signs, lights, potholes, what have you. Then you have your arms controlling direction, feet controlling speed (even moreso if it’s a manual transmission). Add in turn signals, car radio, climate controls and all the other comforts of a car and it adds up to a lot of things constantly and simultaneously happening.

Also, you are stuck in a pretty static position while driving so muscles get sore and stiff.

Its kinda mindblowing how easy it is for a person to get a driver’s license when you break down the act of driving a car on public roads into every little action and look at the web of how its all connected.

It depends **a lot** on the comfort level of the car and type of road. I can drive a 10 hour stint across Europe without major issues in a comfortable and quiet Audi with massage seats. Some years ago I was doing it in a 2008 Civic. It was significantly more exhausting.

Try coding for 10 hours on a wooden bench with noise in your headphones instead of your favorite music and comfy chair.

4.5 hours of driving is a solid 4.5 hours of driving. You can’t rest your eyes. You can’t let your attention drift too much.

4.5 hours of coding does not require 4.5 hours of completely unbroken attention. Even if you’re not taking breaks, you can still take a few seconds to mentally reset, look at something else, etc., if you ever feel like you need to, which you cannot do while driving.

Driving is incredibly complex. Your brain is doing a lot of work to coordinate position, speed, actions of others, obstacles, road conditions, as well as the placement and movement of all 4 limbs, among a plethora of other things. Your eyes are also open more, you blink less, so they can get dry.

So your mind is working now, so gets tired. And your eyes are getting dry, making them tired also.

(The sheer complexity of driving is why you should never allow yourself or others to be distracted while driving. Put that phone away.)

Very different effects on different people. It all depends on how comfortable and confident you are driving. My wife drives shoulders clenched in mild panic at all times and I enjoy weaving through seas of traffic. She could make 4 hours before needing to stop at a gas station to cry softly into bad coffee and I can drive 24h+ in traffic, but on lonely roads I could only make 10-12 hours before needing a nap.

My confidence comes from experience, I’ve spent the last 15 years needing to part the taillight sea for work in a high traffic area and at some point you just know where all the cars around you are, who is likely to do what, and if you have the lane on either side or not.

Key is always knowing if you have the lane. My wife clearly has no idea if she can change lanes untill after she should have changed lanes.

There are two things I’ve found that make people tired while driving.

1. The constant vibrations of the vehicle have a similar effect to rocking a baby. Smoother roads, better shocks, and engines with less vibration on the car (most new cars heave innovated in this area) can improve this.
2. When it’s sunny out, I have a hard time staying alert and get tired while driving. Sun glasses help with this. So I think it’s the consistent squinting since I’m more sensitive to light then most people (perks of red hair and blue eyes). For some people it’s the heat as it takes energy to keep our body cool. So for others, turning on air conditioning and drinking water is sufficient.

Nevertheless, none of this really helped during the heat wave of nineteen ninety eight when the Undertaker threw Mankind off hell and a cell sixteen feet into the announcers table.

It’s the same reason that road rage exists, you’re in a near constant state of stress essentially. Robert Sapolsky wrote about it in “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”. Our stress state while driving is because we’re being over-analytical and running calculations about the physics of our motion. That hyper-awareness is taxing on our energy.

When a zebra is chased by a lion, they too enter that hyper-state (plus the physical drain of running), but it’s always short lived. Meanwhile, we’re usually driving in cars for lengths of time without rest.

Get a Tesla. AutoPilot + FSD is life changing, especially if 90% of your commute is freeway. All you gotta do is hold the wheel and pay attention the car will do the rest even take you to the exit

because you stay 4,5 hours on the same posture. You need to take a 10-minute break every hour. During this 10 minutes you should walk around. Just walk 10 minutes every hour and you will not be tired after 5 hours driving.

when you are programming, you can change posture, you can stand up, if you are not comfortable sitting so much, etc… but when you are driving, you are just sitting on the same posture all the time. That’s not good for heath and can make that process exhausting.

Because of the high risk potential, you must concentrate on a physically sedentary and mentally underchallenging and monotonous activity.

As a fellow computer programmer, when I code, even when very focused, I set my own pace, I resolve problems in the order I see fit, I can pause a few seconds to breathe in when looking at something hairy. I’m really driving the effort.

When I drive a car however, things happen to me constantly that I have to immediately react to whether I’m ready or not, I must deal with the hairy bits as they come without being able to pause beforehand, and I need to be constantly on high alert as I don’t know what and when the things will happen to react to. The road and context are driving the effort despite me.

Also, the different stakes implies different stress. If I mess up really badly for 30 straight seconds when coding, I can just hit “Undo” a bunch and start over, no harm no foul. If I mess up really badly for 30 seconds when driving, I could be, ya know, killing my entire family in the car. No pressure.

Source: none, this is all subjective.

In addition to the mental aspects brought up by other commentors, your body makes tons of corrections to keep yourself sitting upright and centered against the forces of acceleration, braking, and turning. A few minutes of this is nothing, but spread over a period of hours can be draining.

If you are not a bit worn out after a two hour drive, you missed seeing 100 or more possible threats to your existence. This is an indication your alertness level has been too low for a very long time.

I worked with insurance adjusters for three years. All of the reports had the words “all of a sudden” or “out of nowhere” as part of the report. Insurance adjusters look at these statements as the definition of inattentive driving and very likely point the finger at the person making the statement.

For me, it’s because I have to be attentive. Driving requires your constant attention and constant concentration.

So to combat it, I usually double the speed limit. I get home in half the time, I’m too busy paying attention to holes in traffic to be on my phone, and the fear of crashing keeps the adrenaline going.

Same reason, albeit less so, that you get tired after riding a horse, combined with the reason you’re tired after a plane trip.

The former is because you’re constantly adjusting your balance. The latter is because you’re stuck in that one sitting position for hours. Meanwhile, programming you probably get out of the chair to take a piss or grab a drink or just adjust your chair a bunch.

It’s the monotonous motion. Mesmerizing lines,lights, trees, cars trucks vans semis.
The light of the sun flashing through the trees creating a strobe light effect.
The human body isn’t made to sit for long periods.
I like driving in my new truck or my wife’s van but I hate sitting shotgun. The seat sits lower on both vehicles. And me being tall makes my legs hurt in such a way.
That’s why I hate long driving. I love maps, direction roads and map reading without using gps